Writing a novel can be a daunting experience, which is why a large number of people’s debut novels did not originally start out as novels. They started out as ideas for a story that needed to be told. But writing can itself be therapeutic. It can help the writer deal with anger, aggression, guilt, and pain, among other things. And that is why writing ANYTHING is A Good Thing.
While on my second maternity leave, my husband snapped, and sat me down for ‘a talk’.
“Enough of looking after everyone else but yourself. Do something for you,” he said.
And so I took him at his word. It started with (excuse the pun) baby steps, enrolling on an online fiction-writing course, which kickstarted the long-buried urge to write. I rediscovered my love for words, for structure, for playing with perspective. And, somewhere along the line, I realized that my few thousand word story was just the beginning.
I sat and plotted. I knew what I wanted to do (interpret the same events differently depending on protagonist), so I sketched out events that would bring my characters to the boil (excuse the mixing of metaphors). I dreamed up situations and wrote them down from various angles, blurring the narratives or pulling them apart as I saw fit. Real life seemed very distant as I wrote.
But real life did creep into my narrative. Not my life which, at the time of writing, was caked in baby slobber and toddler snot, but the life I wished I could relive: the carefree years of youth. And so the choice of setting my book at university became the obvious one for yet another reason.
It was difficult to write. My brain, addled as it was by trying to juggle multiple roles with lack of sleep, was struggling to cope with four distinct voices. Spreadsheets littered my writing space, noting everything from each character’s preferred phrases to their timetables and interests. I had lists of major events at the time the book is set (early noughties), major sporting matches and games, and even hit songs.
It was this last list that I compiled into a playlist that lifted me out of my muddy-brained zombie routine back into some semblance of humanity. Music returned to a dwelling that had, for what seemed like years, been dominated by screaming babies.
At the same time, the writing took on a life of its own, waking me up instead of my children in the middle of the night with a flash of an idea or a thought that I knew I had to write down or forget forever, or pushing me through the exhaustion barrier back to sanity.
And then, suddenly, it was done – a finished manuscript of Lost in Static, just as maternity leave came to an end. And the best part? That was only the beginning…
This post is brought to you by Christina Philippou.